Saturday, March 29, 2008

Asleep in the city
on a bed I've called my own for too long
noise at three in the morn. Was it
coyotes, or just stray dogs howling? Groggy eyes
catch the sodium glow through the panes
iIllusion a : I'm lying under a full moon
primal sounds of a jungle surrounding me
distant lights of Kalimpong across the mountain ridge
and a stony river runs through it all.
A little cold.Then you
turn over, mumbling
place your foot over mine.

Next I blink, I smell teacups
morning sounds, muffled
the peacock is heard nowhere,
only a lone cuckoo from the Amaltas
singing out of tune.
I am wearing an absent minded smile to work today.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Looks like Hillary's race is all but over. There's a tone of pity in the latest offering from Obama girl. She sings to her mostly about being a good loser and all. Riveting video.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Travel rant

The rhino doesn't much care. In places like Kaziranga and Jaldapara wildlife sanctuaries, they're used to seeing scores of human clowns everyday. I hear Kaziranga is better. But our travel plans involved Jaldapara in West Bengal. Prior to the overcast and frequently drippy morning on elephant back in the J forest, we had spent two anxious evenings inside two other beautiful, lush and scary jungles, at the Jayanti forest which borders Bhutan, and at little known Chilapata which was more exciting in terms of flora. But it was "wild" elephants we were after. And we missed them by a whisker. Or that's what the guide would make us believe. He was the cat's whiskers. The jungle is a world of make believe. Some travelblog says, only morons aim to see big game when going on a jungle safari. I knew that before I started. But I learned a few things as I went along:

a) The jungle is a beautiful place, and the green does your eyes a world of good if you don't strain them over that elusive fauna. It's ok, really, just listen to the birds twitter. There will also be fowl and pheasants road running, one feels sanguine. Even peacocks, in these parts.

b) If possible avoid the company of guides. They will only weave a spell of high drama. If not possible, turn a deaf ear. It doesn't help to know that wild tuskers had blocked the road day before yesterday at exactly the same spot where you have now exhausted your 20x in all directions. Even makes you afraid to go take a leak by the wayside.
c) The forest rangers and tour guides have numerous tools to impress the lay visitor, viz. life size rubber stamps of big cat feet, which they apply at strategic positions, so every guide on every jeep knows where to look. See below.

d) There are two kinds of animals. The elephant is a stray animal. The tiger is a prey animal. Nobody really knows when and where stray animals will be sighted. However, it is almost certain that a prey animal will not be sighted during an orchestrated morning/evening safari.

e) When you ride on an elephant's back, it will move and you will shake. Stir in the low light inside the jungle in early morn, and you've got a photographic situation not suited for amateurs. The only real rhino I saw, up close, and for about 5 whole minutes, could not be bothered to sit up in the middle of the nullah. Our good man,
the mahout, tried to give us plenty shooting opportunity. I took about 10 shots, the best of which is here, post photoshop. Still lousy. You can see, you need to
know your ISO and white balance and shutter speeds extremely well. I did not. Probably my wife's got a better video. She was on a different elephant and they saw the R standing up. The handycam was smuggled in. You practically have no option. These stupid people will charge 25 bucks for a still camera and 300 for video. In the day and age when you can record passable video on almost everything. I promise to link up that video soon as I learn how to upload something to utube. Help, anybody?

But the tour itself was not half bad. We moved on to the hills in the latter part. Caught the aftermath of a huge hailstorm. Sampled the produce of Bhutanese distilleries, which was a revelation of sorts. Spent a night at a bungalow ghost stories are made of. All of that in part II.

P.S. I have figured out how to upload videos to Utube without help. So, here be.